This is just a compilation of some of my bug-tastrophes. Maybe it will be of use to others fighting the battles.
Reader beware: bugs were killed in the learning process that is gardening. Methods of how to kill said bugs are also listed below. You have been warned.
My very first garden was amazing. I had so many baby plants just disappear over night it seemed. So many. I went to researching and realized I had an intense slug problem. I also learned that slugs come out really late at night….fast forward to one night where I set the alarm for 2 am. Chad was armed with a bucket of salt water and I had my handy garden shovel. We set out to fight the slimy battle. Did I mention that I am a lucky girl. How many husbands go out at 2am for a slug slaughter fest?! I mean, really?! I wasn’t quite sure what we would actually find, but oh lordy I was not prepared for the hundreds…literally…of slugs that graced my garden that night. One of them was 4 inches long. I kid you not. Google it. Or don’t Google it if you are easily petrified.
Slugs love cool, moist places. I had lined my garden with landscape timbers and rocks. Hello….perfect slug homes. Basically, I set up house for the slugs and planted their meals for them too. Go me. I had read that putting slugs in salt water would kill them, so that was our plan. But after throwing a few in there, it just seemed like it would be a terrible way to die. I had some pent up anger towards these slimy blobs anyway, so in the end I decided I would just smash them. I thought it was the more humane thing to do. Sounds kinda sketchy right now though. But anyways, it was a quick death. Thankfully at The Givens Grove slugs aren’t a huge problem.
Oh how I loathe you. Your ability to multiply into the billions over night is ridiculous. Alright, it might take a week to multiply to that many, but still. Adult squash bugs look very similar to stink bugs but can be several different colors. Basically their only reason to exist is to suck the life out of your squash/zucchini plant leaves. Without leaves the plants obviously die. Squash bugs are sneaky. You don’t realize you have them until you have a massive infestation. This is in part due to the fact that they generally lay their eggs on the underside of the leaves. The eggs are super tiny little orange pods. I would try to pick them off and smash them but a few would always fall to the ground, where they will still hatch. I had read about a trick using scotch tape. It was so easy I would have Alli, then three years old, help. You just use the tape kinda like a lint roller, to pull the eggs off. I would then fold the tape over so the eggs were sealed inside. I handed it over to Alli, who gladly smashed the eggs. No mess to deal with.
The best form of controlling squash bug populations is killing all the eggs and constantly checking for new clutches. Now that I have had several years of dealing with squash bugs, I am always checking over my plants looking for the tell tale eggs. The nymphs and adults are much harder to catch and kill. A couple years ago I tried letting my chickens in to deal with a major overpopulation of them and they could have cared less. So much for using chickens as pest control.
Green Bean Aphids:
I had never seen anything like it. The brightest neon yellow little bugs I had ever seen, I thought we had little aliens all over our runner beans. This infestation happened during the awesome morning sickness days of 2014. It had probably been 2 or 3 weeks since I had been in the garden. So I can’t tell you much of how it started but when I saw the beans I knew something was attacking them. The leaves were yellow and had some holes in them. The plants just looked really poor, but I couldn’t see anything to speak of. Then I turned the leaves over and found the weirdest, tiniest bug I have ever seen. I didn’t get a picture of them but check here. I didn’t know then what they were, but my method for eradication is pretty much the same for all bugs…when in doubt ….smash. After smashing hundreds of those bad boys over the next couple of weeks the population had pretty much disappeared, but the plants had already suffered a lot of damage. My grandfather told me to use neem oil, which I ordered but never got to use it before I pulled the dying plants. If I encounter them again this year, I am going to see how neem works for the situation. On a side note, aphids can come in several different colors so even if they aren’t yellow it could still be aphids. Luckily this has been my only experience with aphids. We have since started growing nasturtiums, these are sacrificial plants that will attract aphids to themselves and away from your garden. Nasturtiums have beautiful flowers, so they are a joy to grow with the added aphid benefit.
Squash Vine Borer:
Left alone this little creature will kill your entire plant in a couple weeks. It is the larva of a moth, from what I understand, that lays its eggs in early spring near your plant. The larvae then bore a hole into your squash/ zucchini plant. The leaf’s stalks are hollow in these plants and carry water to your budding vegetables. The larvae live in these hollows and eat the stalks from the inside. At one point I thought that once you had borers your plant had no chance to live. I had read that you could plant your seeds later in the season and miss the “laying season” of the moth in question. Tried it…didn’t work. So I did some more research and read where you could attempt to “do surgery”, as I call it, on the plant. My plant was going to die anyway, so why not try it. I couldn’t believe it when it worked on 4 out of 5 plants. The key is to catch the borers early before they do too much damage. The first sign is something that looks like clumps of wet saw dust at the base of the plant. Below is a picture of a plant that has had a vine borer in it for a while, but it is to give you an idea of what I mean when I say “wet saw dust.” Once you realize you have a vine borer you use a sharp knife to make a small incision at the point of entry (the wet saw dust). A vine borer looks like a typical grub worm, so if you don’t see one in the hollow tunnel then continue your incision a little farther up the stalk until you find it. Sometimes there is more than one. Extract the grubs and do as you please, the chickens do like these guys. The key to saving the plant is then mounding dirt over the incision that you have made. I really didn’t think it would work, but I was wrong. So now I plant my seeds when I want and just deal with the borers as they come.
I am sure I will be adding to this list as I learn, but up to this point these have been the bigger problems I have had to deal with in the endeavor that is gardening. What are some of the major pests that you have had to deal with?